THEATRE | Anderson Cook and Ben Lapidus present the soundtrack to your middle-school insecurities, with the volume cranked up high
Do you remember pop punk? Did you love it? Did you listen to Blink 182, Sum 41, Green Day, and/or Newfound Glory? Did you skateboard? If you couldn't skateboard, did you play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater? Were you angsty, torn up and angry about nothing in particular? If any or all of these are the case, then Pop Punk High is a show that you are going to love. Set against the backdrop of the early 2000s, this boisterous, lighthearted musical comedy is everything that your inner disaffected teenager needs to feel feelings again.
Derek is kinda lame. He dreams of being the pop punk king of his pop punk high school, but his guitar skills are for jack and he can't shred on a skateboard to save his life. His only friend is a loser like him, and he hates his poser parents. He pines after Amanda Bunkface, the coolest girl in school, but she doesn't even know his name. Besides, she's dating the coolest kid in school: Skeet. He has no chance, until one day he finds the ghost of Avril Lavigne in a lamp in his attic. She offers him three wishes, which he uses to chase after his dreams, but, in time-honored fashion, you have to be careful what you wish for…
"I haven't laughed this much at the PIT since the first time I saw Puffs"
Anderson Cook has written a belter. His previous indie-musical The Disembodied Hand That Fisted Everyone to Death was a tonne of fun, but Pop Punk High is most assuredly the next step in his evolution. His one-liners are savage, his dialogue is to both kill and die for, and his understanding of the pop-punk milieu is doctorate grade. I haven't laughed this much at the PIT since the first time I saw Puffs there… and look where that show ended up. The comedy is fun, witty, and cartoonish, laid on as thickly as the audience will take it, and delivered by a sterling cast with the bravura of an angsty Mel Brooks picture.
I would love to say more on the cast, unfortunately no literature was ever provided with their names, making it difficult to single anyone out. Suffice to say, they were uniformly brilliant, giving comic performances that belong in a room far bigger than the PIT Loft.*
Musically, the show hits the parody nail directly on the head. If the lyrics weren't so damned funny, you could easily mistake these tracks for an actual Blink 182 album. Ben Lapidus layers in power chord guitar riffs and turns the nostalgia dial all the way to eleven. Vocally, the cast match the era's finest, note for nasally note. Christine Ferry's choreography is a perfect visual mix-tape of every dance move you'll remember from early 00s MTV, and Turner Barrett Law has directed the show to the point where there isn't a second of dead air. This production is a tight-knit, well-oiled machine.
What Cook and his crew have created here is explosively good. It leaps off the stage at you. Sometimes literally. Everything from the overly-mercurial Derek, to his bizarre nemesis Skeet, to his stiflingly supportive and doting parents, is a joy, and the only crime the show commits is that it is too short. An extra fifteen or so minutes with these characters, in this world, would be a holiday we could all use. It would also allow for a more elaborate third act turnaround, so that the ending wouldn't feel quite as brisk. I left this show and immediately wanted to watch it again. If you get the chance, you absolutely must see it.
The producers contacted us with a full cast list following the article's publication. The full roster is as follows:
Derek: Ben Lapidus
Tib: Gwynn Ballard
Amanda Bunkface: Kelly Krauter
Avril Lavigne: Francesca Ferrari
Skeet: Caleb Isaac
Mom: Jamie Watson
Dad: Jacob Grover
Pop Punk Gremlins: Alexander Might, Donovan Mendelovitz, Leanne Velednitsky
We extend our heartiest congratulations to the cast.
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